Using very generalized numbers, we can compare the number of deaths due to COVID-19 so far in the USA to other countries. The death rate from COVID-19 overall per one million population in the USA is approximately 3331. We could compare that rate with developed countries that were very successful in keeping their COVID-related deaths down such as New Zealand at 642 (I am comparing with other “developed” countries meaning that these countries probably have much more accurate estimates of COVID-19 related deaths). But let us very simply compare the USA to Canada. Canada is not so geographically isolated as New Zealand for example, and has many similarities to the USA with language, comparable healthcare access, large size, varied population, etc. And Canada did, from a public health perspective, overall did some things differently during the pandemic which would explain a lower death rate. Canada’s death rate is 1382. If the USA had intervened more fully during the pandemic, especially early on, and had achieved the reduction in deaths achieved by Canada, then instead of about 1.1 million COVID deaths in the US, there would have been about 460,000 deaths. (335,516,824/1,000,000) x 1382 = 463,684. Actual deaths in the USA = 1,127,152. About 660,000 American lives could have been saved.
For the sake of simplicity, the above calculation makes many assumptions which I am purposely not addressing. The deaths from COVID-19 have many issues surrounding them. But in some ways, getting caught up in complicated issues can blind us to the obvious. If the calculations above are even within several hundred thousand in meaningful accuracy, this is obviously an extremely important reality. There is no way now to go back and bring these people back. But reflecting on what our country could have done better is very important if we want to be people who learn, who want to improve, who care about the future.
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